ST. LOUIS — Lance Berkman had a single, RBI double and walk — reaching base seven straight times over two games — and the St. Louis Cardinals inched closer in the NL wild card race with a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.
Jaime Garcia (12-7) worked six efficient innings, and Rafael Furcal had two hits and his 300th career steal for the Cardinals, who doubled four times and scored four runs in the first three innings against Derek Lowe (9-14). They've taken the first two games of a three-game series, both by 4-3 scores, to reduce Atlanta's wild card lead to 5½ games.
Freddie Freeman hit his 19th home run for the Braves, who are 4-7 in September after going 17-9 in August. Michael Bourn singled twice, for a two-day total of six hits, and had a steal but he flied out with the tying run on third for the final out.
Garcia has won his first two starts this month after going 0-2 with a 6.84 ERA in August. He allowed three runs and eight hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
Jason Heyward walked with one out in the ninth, then stole second and went to third on catcher Yadier Molina's throwing error with two outs before Jason Motte wrapped up his fourth save in seven chances. Motte was the winning pitcher after working a perfect 10th inning Friday.
Berkman had a walk and three singles on Friday and started Saturday with an infield hit, an RBI double and a walk before ending the run with a soft liner to short in the eighth.
Albert Pujols and David Freese had an RBI apiece in the first inning. Matt Holliday and Berkman hit consecutive one-out doubles in the third, and Molina added an RBI single in the inning for a 4-0 lead.
Freeman's two-run homer in the fourth was only the second by a left-handed batter against Garcia. Bourn singled, stole second and scored on Brian McCann's single in the fifth to make it a one-run game.
Lowe ended a string of four consecutive rookie starters for the Braves. He was also the first in five games to finish the sixth, topping 2,500 career innings and lessening the load a bit on the Atlanta bullpen. He gave up four runs and nine hits.
Lowe beat the Cardinals in the clinching Game 4 of the 2004 World Series with Boston, but has had little success in the regular season. He's 1-8 with a 6.79 ERA in 10 career starts against St. Louis, the lone victory coming in 2007 when he was with the Dodgers.
Notes: Tim Hudson (14-9, 3.14) faces Jake Westbrook (11-8, 4.65) in the finale of the Cardinals' nine-game homestand on Sunday. Hudson is 3-3 with a 5.25 ERA for his career against St. Louis. ... Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones got a day off and will play Sunday. C Brian McCann will get a rest. Jones is 2 for 15 with no RBIs this season against the Cardinals. ... Braves LHP George Sherrill (left elbow inflammation) resumed playing catch Saturday after being shut down for about a week after going on the DL on Aug. 31. ... Nick Punto's deciding sacrifice fly on Friday was his first game-ending hit. ... The Braves bullpen has totaled 38 innings in 11 games this month. ... Furcal is 9 for 20 with three RBIs against Lowe.